Female using calculatorThe beginning of the year also marks the beginning of the busier time for us at the NAO, as both interim and final audit visits start to loom. Although interim visits tend to start around February, this financial year the audit fieldwork is likely to begin much sooner.

This is because of the changes within many of the central government departments. For example, the Department of Health has faced major changes due to the Health and Social Care Act 2012 which both abolished and established hundreds of bodies. This not only effects how the department operates, it also has a financial impact: the closing balances from the prior year for the abolished organisations need to be transferred to a receiving organisation to become their opening balances, which then need to be audited. The audit of these balances has already begun but most of the work is likely to start later this month and is an area of work I am likely to be involved with.

Once the opening balances have been audited, it will soon be time for the interim audit visits in February. Interim visits can have many aims which will tend to focus on areas of significant risk for the audit. Most interim visits will last around two weeks and will consist of detailed testing of transactions that will help alleviate some of the work required at final audit.

Depending on the location of the client, we may be required to travel quite far (e.g. Bristol – far down for someone like me based in Newcastle) and stay in a hotel for the working week. As trainees, you won’t be asked to travel alone and you will normally be joined by a few other people from the office. Luckily for me the two main audits I will be working on this year (the Department of Health, and the Health and Social Care Information Centre) are both in Leeds. However, on the down side, it does mean that February is likely to be a very busy time for me as I will be working on both interim visits!

After the interim audit visit has finished, there tends to be a small window around Easter to stop and catch your breath before the bulk of our audit work begins. The final audit visit will begin around the start of May and can last for up to eight weeks (or until the accounts are certified!). The majority of this time will be spent on site with the client, though the latter few weeks can be at the office. The work will follow on from the interim visit where we will be gathering further evidence which provides sufficient assurance that the figures in the accounts are materially correct (materiality is a level of error set based on the entity which can exist without affecting the decisions that would be otherwise made). As Parliament will rise for recess on 22 July, all of our audit fieldwork and accounts certification need to be completed before then. Sometimes the recess date is a tough deadline!

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